A Pennsylvania judge struck down the state’s Voter ID requirement Friday, citing its inherent threat to the rights of legitimate voters as well as problems with the law’s implementation.
In his ruling, Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley said the law was unconstitutional.
“[The Voter ID Law is] invalid and unconstitutional on its face as the provision and issuance of compliant identification does not comport with liberal access and unreasonably burdens the right to vote,” he wrote.
“Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election; the Voter ID Law does not further this goal.”
McGinley said the state’s efforts to make it easier for voters to obtain ID – or to mitigate any problems by using provisional ballots – are insufficient.
“The right to vote, fundamental in Pennsylvania, is irreplacable, necesitating its protection before any deprivation occurs. Deprivation of the franchise is neither compensable nor reparable by after-the-fact legal remedies, necessitating injunctive and declaratory relief.”
Attorney General Kathleen Kane released the following statement:
“I respect Judge McGinley’s very thoughtful decision in this matter. The Office of Attorney General will continue to defend the rights of all Pennsylvanians, and we will work with all related Commonwealth agencies to carry out this decision and ensure that all voters have access to free and fair elections.”
PoliticsPA is also seeking comment from Governor Tom Corbett, who supported the requirement and signed it into law.
The state legislature passed the Voter ID law in spring 2012. It required that all voters furnish photo identification at the polls, including but not limited to a drivers licenses, passport, military ID, certain students ID and certain nursing home IDs.
Supporters of the law said it was necessary to prevent voter fraud. Opponents said it was a partisan effort to suppress the votes of minorities, the elderly and students who disproportionately lack ID and are more likely to support Democrats.
The voter ID requirement was never in effect during an election due to ongoing injunctions from the courts.
In their legal challenge to the law, opponents said the burden of proof was on supporters to prove that in-person voter fraud was a serious threat. Judge McGinley agreed, and he said they had failed.
“Certainly a vague concern about voter fraud does not rise to a level that justifies the burdens constructed here,” McGinley wrote.